Monday, March 30, 2009

Foster Mom

Six years ago our two cats, Tegan and Avon, passed away a few months apart from one another. Tegan was 17 and Avon was 15. We missed them terribly. They were our first "babies", our only "babies" for five years until our daughter came along.
There was a no-kill animal shelter that housed cats and dogs near our home. After Tegan and Avon were gone, we would all go in with donations of money, food, towels, blankets and to get our "cat-fix" by playing with and holding the cats and kittens. Soon this morphed into me volunteering once a week in the cat room, cleaning, feeding and giving medications. During kitten season the shelter would be swarming with kittens. My husband and I even made a couple of rescue trips to pick up cats and kittens. I personally made two trips to the local airport to pickup mommies and their kittens that had been flown in. On one of those trips there was a mommy cat with four babies of her own and two she was fostering. The babies were only days old. The shelter's cat coordinator asked us if we could foster the mommy and her four babies, someone would take on the other two kittens. With very little deliberation we said of course.

When the shelter took in a cat with a litter, the names given to them all, had to start with the same letter, this way there was a way of keeping who belonged to who straight. We dubbed mommy cat Bonnie and her four boys Baxter, Boris, Bart, and Barry. We brought Bonnie and the Boys home.

As the foster family we had to raise kittens who would be people-friendly. This entailed lots of cuddling, petting and loads of playtime with the boys (not hard to do for cat lovers). Part of our duties was to weekly weigh each kitten to make sure they were growing on schedule. We would put my blue bowl on the kitchen scales and place a kitten inside. The boys loved it and sometimes it was difficult to get them out of it.

Kittens know about the concept of a litter box, but you have to introduce them to kitty litter and teach them that it is not kitten chow, another one of our duties. They catch on quickly, but like all babies, they want to put things in their mouths.
We kept Bonnie and the Boys in the little room off of the kitchen and put up a baby gate to corral them ...that lasted for a while until one morning we were in the living room watching the television and two little eyes peeked around the was Bart, he had made it over the wall...of all the boys he was the most precocious. It did not take long for the others to follow. Down came the baby gate and off went the television. We were so entertained by their antics that we rarely had the T.V. on again while the Bonnie and the Boys were in our home.

When it came time to take them back to the shelter it was a little difficult. We had grown to love the little guys, but we were getting ready to move and I was not ready for a new cat(s) of our own again. Baxter and Boris were adopted together which was fitting, because they were close to one another. Bart was adopted by a woman who loved his spunky personality and Barry was the last of Bonnie's boys to be adopted. He was adopted by a couple who could not live without him.

My Foster Mom experience was rewarding and one I will never forget, but even after all of that, I am still not ready to adopt a cat of our own. Since our move we've had a cat adopt us. We have named him Riley and he is an outdoor cat. I think Riley is the Harriet Tubman of the cat world. My house is on the Feline Underground Railway. He has brought other cats to the back porch. One day he brought a pregnant cat, which we promptly took to a no-kill animal shelter (remember, I did not want to be a cat owner or Foster Mom again), then he introduced another female cat, non-pregnant this time, to the porch life. We call her Charlotte. Finally, we have a big, black, tomcat who hangs around the porch. He is skittish but my husband (aka the Cat-Whisperer) has been able to touch him a couple of times. We call him Shadow.

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